In the 21st century, cloud computing has become one of the biggest and fastest-growing industries worldwide. People and organizations everywhere are eager to store their data online for maximum ease and convenience, and the cloud offers them a chance to do that. Amazon, Microsoft and Google have risen to power as major cloud providers. Now, though, IBM is making a serious play to join that elite group, as it recently made a major move to acquire Red Hat, the top distributor of Linux.

The New York Times reported that IBM spent a whopping $34 billion to buy Red Hat, which may rapidly catapult the computing giant to the top of the cloud game. IBM has long championed a “hybrid” approach to cloud computing, meaning some data stays inside companies’ own data centers while others is stored on the cloud servers provided by tech companies, and having Red Hat in the fold can help with that. Linux is the world’s most popular open-source operating system, which means it will help companies adapt and build their own hybrid cloud solutions.

“Enterprises are moving to the cloud, but 80 percent of them are not there yet,” IBM senior vice president Arvind Krishna told the Times. “We can provide a much easier path to manage and make secure both private clouds and links to multiple public clouds.”

The hybrid cloud market is growing rapidly. A number of companies have discovered that the most cost-effective way to manage their data is to have software developers in house to write cloud applications, then run those apps through remote data centers. Linux, by aiding open-source app development, makes it easier for companies to adopt hybrid cloud strategies.

For IBM, buying the rights to Linux represents a new way to compete in a playing field that’s long been dominated by the three major cloud players. Analysts told the Times that IBM can’t compete broadly with the “hyperscale” cloud brands of Amazon, Microsoft and Google which are far richer, but by focusing on this hybrid cloud niche, the company has a way to stay viable.

“For most corporations, hybrid cloud is the only practical way to the cloud,” said Paul Cormier, president of products and technologies at Red Hat.

Photo: Red Hat headquarters in Raleigh, N.C. Credit: zimmytws /